Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 8/9, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first reading and the ‘Bread of Life’ theme found in the Gospel reading.
In 2005, my family and I made my 1st trip to North Carolina to join the rest of our extended family to celebrate our grandmother.
This was no small undertaking.
8 children, spouses, dozens of grandchildren, in-laws, and great-grandchildren all smashed into one house for a never-ending week of story-telling, card playing, laughing and endless eating.
On the final night of the trip, my grandmother, broken foot and all, finally waded out into the water with my uncle on her one side and I on her other. As she stood gazing over the horizon, she asked a question that I have never forgotten.
“Do you mind if I cry now?”
I remember answering, “Of course Nana.”
She then proceeded to say . . . “I have missed him every day since he’s been gone.”
See my grandfather had died of cancer before I was born, leaving my grandmother alone with eight children, some still in high school and college. For the next few decades, she became the unstoppable matriarch . . . attending every wedding, graduation and baptism. Travelling from Canada to Texas, from Ohio to Harrisburg to check-in on her family.
She was always smiling, always supportive, always joy-filled.
And yet, this whole time, she carried this weight. And now, for a moment, I was watching as she laid it down.
I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother as I reflected on the 1st reading for this weekend.
For I can’t help but see my grandmother in the figure of Elijah.
He too had known more than his share of hardship and suffering. His entire life had been a battle against the authority figures of his day. He was driven into hiding. He had watched as his fellow prophets were murdered. And in the end, he was alone, a solitary voice fleeing to the wilderness.
And like my grandmother, he reached the point when he too was ready to lay that weight down.
And yet, for both of them, this was not the end of the journey. Elijah would continue on his prophetic journey, proclaiming God’s word for years to come. My grandmother would continue to serve as the matriarch for several more years before finally rejoining her husband.
Leaving me with one question. How?
How did they find the strength and the courage to reshoulder that weight and journey on?
I believe that the answer to that question is at the heart of our readings and at the center of our celebration of the Eucharist.
See these last few weeks have been a journey into the heart of Jesus’ teachings on the Eucharist. And at the center of this mystery are some rather simple truths.
That each of us who come to this table will be fed. Fed with the Bread of Life that will strengthen us and nourish us for our journey. So that we too, like our foremothers and forefathers, will be able to come to this place, lay down our weights before the altar, and then find the grace to pick them up again.
That each of us who come to this table do not do so alone. We come to stand beside our sisters and brothers in faith so that we too can find a place where tears can be freely shed, forgiveness freely asked for and granted, hugs freely given, and joy freely shared.
My friends, we all come with the weights of the world on our shoulders. Some of these weights are relatively light, others are enormously heavy. But we all have them nonetheless.
We come with the weight of grief and loss. We have buried spouses and children, parents and friends. We, like Elijah, have faced the demons of depression and burnout.
We come with the weight of anxiety and fear. Of separation and starting over. Of new schools and uncertain deployments.
We come with the weight of failure, shattered dreams and regret. Of marriages that have ended and children that were never conceived or born. Of jobs that were terminated, parents who left and children who were estranged.
In the end, we have all dwelt in the shadow of the cross.
But what we experience here each week is a reminder that the cross is not the final word. Resurrection is.
Resurrection that transforms our crosses into the unexpected sources of new life.
And so I invite you my friends to eat of this life-giving bread, drink of this life-giving cup, share in this life-giving community that surrounds you.
And then let us go forth, with weights on our shoulders, but Christ in our hearts.
May God be Praised.